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Trade Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Beith Lord Beith Liberal Democrat 5:00 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, I do not need to add to the masterful laying out of the reasons for the amendment by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, or to what was said by the two Members who have just spoken—particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. But I will refer to the consequence of going about the matter in this way. Lord Steyn’s judgment does not place any obligation on the courts to have a habit or practice of referring to Explanatory Notes—it is entirely up to the courts whether they choose to do so—but, if the Government persist in this interpretation, which appeared to us for the first time in a letter from the noble Baroness, it says to parliamentary draftsmen and departments, “Don’t worry about ambiguity; there are the Explanatory Notes and we do not have to get those through either House”. It is an invitation to careless and sloppy drafting; it is an invitation to leaving open a possibility that the Government may not want to specify at this stage, but might be useful at a later date, when the Explanatory Notes would be relied on for a purpose that I do not think Lord Steyn intended. I was quite shocked to find this interpretation of Pepper v Hart coming into the Government’s responses to the Constitution Committee. We need to squash it pretty quickly, before it influences the habits of departments and parliamentary draftsmen any further.